It is now official, Pierre Gasly will drive for Alpine F1 and form a 100% French driver duo in 2023 alongside Esteban Ocon, who joined the Enstone team in 2020.
Relieved that Fernando Alonso’s replacement has finally been confirmed, team principal Otmar Szafnauer welcomes this arrival and that sporting issues are now the only concern in the remaining races this season.
“We have an excellent couple of drivers for next year, now we must provide them with a car capable of showing their talent, then we can concentrate on our goal for the end of the season: fourth place in the constructors.”
“We signed Pierre because he’s experienced and he’s quick and that’s a very important thing for the team. He was at the top of our list but we didn’t know if he would be available. So somehow we had to make him available.” , and it’s an amazing feeling that it’s happening.”
In order to release Gasly from his contract with AlphaTauri, Red Bull first wanted to find a worthy replacement for the French driver. Now it is done with Nyck de Vries, and Szafnaeur assures that the negotiations with Helmut Marko were not complicated.
“I had already had conversations with Helmut in the past, mostly in France, but on other issues. They (Red Bull) were very clear and direct about what they needed to release Pierre from his contract, and then they kept their word and everything. “. it was easily done. All the elements had to be together anyway, but talking to them was pretty easy.”
Franz Tost refused to release Gasly from his contract with AlphaTauri
Except that in reality, the first discussions did not take place with Marko but with Franz Tost, the manager of the AlphaTauri team. And Szafnaeur to reveal that the Austrian leader was very reluctant to release the pilot from him one year after the end of his contract.
“I started talking not to Helmut but to Franz, and I told him: ‘We have a bucket to fill and we think Pierre is the right choice for the future.’ And Franz was, and he is the reason why I feel particularly good. today, dismissive and saying: ‘No, Pierre is a great pilot and I don’t want him to go.’ Then I would reply: ‘Thank you Franz, I will also call Helmut.’ Then I started the conversations with Helmut, who was much more receptive to seeing how to make such a thing possible”.
Szafnauer admits he still doesn’t know Gasly very well on a personal level, but explains that instead he has followed his sometimes difficult path within Red Bull very closely.
“I know him a little bit. I remember when he won the GP2 championship, before it was called F2, I found myself on the same TV as him after his title. Of course, I followed his career since he was in F1. But I was especially attentive to his situation in Red Bull when he was promoted and then relegated. I was impressed with his performance when he returned to Toro Rosso, he was not at all affected by the situation and it seemed that it even motivated him. It was really impressive.”
A duo of 100% French drivers with a long-term presence?
Gasly joined Alpine F1 on a two-year contract, but Szafnauer hopes he and Ocon will be the team for the long term.
We don’t usually offer a one-year deal anyway, but it sure was important to him. He only had one year left on his contract at AlphaTauri and he needed stability. Now we have two very good drivers with Pierre and Esteban. , and we still have 80 races left to start winning and fighting for the championships, so I see them both as part of our project.
“We need drivers who can score points and push the car to the limit, and we have that with Pierre and Esteban. It’s very important that our two drivers are competitive. Sometimes an incident happens in the car through no fault of the driver, and it’s important that If one of our drivers is no longer in the race, the other can get a result.”
If Perre Gasly was not signed because of his nationality, Szafnaeur acknowledges that the 100% duo that he will form with Esteban Ocon was interesting for alpine F1.
“Personally I don’t think nationalities matter, it’s about speed and experience and they both have that, they just happen to be both French. That is of course a good thing for a team and a brand that are also French, let’s say.” It’s good to have two drivers who are both competent and French.”
Alpine F1 needs time to develop certain skills
Having joined the Enstone team earlier in the year, Szafnaeur is pleased with what has been implemented so far. But he also sees many areas for improvement so that he can one day compete with the best teams.
“Certainly the plan is starting to look like what I wanted, but there are still a lot of things I want to implement. Of course, I have a better overview of the team now that I’ve been there for a few months, and I see that some areas of the team need improve. And I’m not saying our staff aren’t competent, let’s just say they still lack some knowledge. It takes time to bring in the right ones. People with the skills that we don’t have. I still have, but I intend to.” .
Gasly and Ocon weren’t necessarily the best of friends during their younger years, but the Alpine F1 boss is counting on their professionalism to put the team in first place next year.
“It may take a bit of management, but not much. They’re both professionals and we’re all adults, so they’ll have to work together for the good of the team and I’m sure that will happen.” penalty fee.”
Especially as Szafnauer has already had to handle the sparks between Ocon and his former teammate Sergio Perez at Force India/Racing Point in the past!
“I have experience! I know the techniques we’ve used in the past to improve the situation, so I know what works and what doesn’t.”
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